Enemy Within –
I had a meeting with my talk therapist yesterday. It went well. She is professional, a good listener and has a way of pointing out things I miss in life experiences. We were talking about a certain subject, one I struggle with mightily at times, and asked a question that made me think in a completely different way. She didn’t say; “Think this way.” Like a good therapist should do, she allowed me to look inside and find my way out of dark corners.
As someone with a Chronic Severe Depression disorder the battle with ruminating thoughts, anger, doubt, confusion, and fear cover my mind, emotions, and spirit like a wet blanket. Some days I can shake the blanket off of me, other days it’s like a chill in my bones and I can’t get warm. Therapy helps remind me that many of the feelings, and non-feelings, which come with depression may not be gotten rid of completely but a new thought, a burst of light, a letting go of some of the negative, can make room for hope and a willingness to continue the journey.
The sun was shining brightly today as if it had been hidden by clouds and couldn’t take it anymore. Bursting through, nothing holding it back, it lit up the blue sky. Now, after showing off, the sun is setting and only remnants of light remain of its beauty.
I have a friend going through a difficult time, battling a disease that will sooner or later kill him. He’s doing everything he can but our bodies are not made to last forever nor beat every enemy we face. I talked with him today on the phone and his voice sounded stronger than in days past. It was good to hear and I laughed as he told me one of his jokes. The last several weeks have been tough, watching him struggle, rise to meet one challenge only to be met by a new and a more difficult obstacle. No one can keep going no matter how much strength they possess.
Today for a moment he shone brightly and I will keep that memory with me as he moves forward.
One of the easiest lessons of wisdom to learn is you are what you repeatedly think or do. One of the hardest wisdom disciplines to practice is thinking and doing good things.
Aristotle said, paraphrased by Will Durant; “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” So what we keep thinking and keep doing reveals who we truly are, on the inside. We can say we are kind, loving, grace-giving, but if our thoughts and deeds betray us we must come to the reality of who we are if we desire to change or be at peace through acceptance.
For those like myself who live with depression, one of the cycles we can get into are negative thoughts about ourselves. We relive painful moments, negative events, over and over again. We get stuck with thoughts of how we could be better, how terrible we are, and how little we can offer the world and those closest to us.
Being caught in a cycle of negative thoughts, reliving mistakes and mishaps is called ruminating. For those battling depression the thoughts can literally go on for days, weeks, months. When we are doing well, on a plateau, we can catch ourselves and refuse to hop on these train of thoughts. When we are struggling our thoughts can take us down tracks from which we may never recover.
I like the Zen saying; “You can’t stop negative thoughts from coming but you don’t have to sit and serve them tea.”
Carry Us in their Hearts –
“What everyone needs to know is
that someone carries us in their hearts.”
This was a line from a lecture I heard today. The subject was people who have and those who do not have a sense of being worthy and loved. It was an interesting webinar and after it was over the words above found a place in my spirit. Each of us long to be loved by someone. We want to know we’re cared for, not because someone “has to” but because someone wants to.
In my battle with a major depressive disorder, the lie the disease tells me which hurts the most is that I am unlovable. It doesn’t whisper to me that no one loves me for I know that is not true but its propaganda is far more sinister. It plants the untruth in my spirit that I am not worthy of another’s love, that people only love me because they don’t see the darkness within. If they knew the struggle to return their love, the doubts, the fears, the impulses, they would find someone more worthy of their affection and devotion.
Even those who do not grapple with an illness such as depression need to know the tenderness and intimacy of another. We all desire to “know that we are carried in the heart of others.”
About the Journey –
As a Benedictine Oblate (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oblate), I receive a monthly newsletter from the Archabbey I was adopted into; Saint Meinrad’s (http://www.saintmeinrad.org/). Last night I read the newsletter for February. The newsletter’s chosen subject was stability and faithfulness. Included in it was a story; “The Worn Path,” by EudoraWelty.
The story is below but the point of it is missed by most. When Eudora Welty was asked if the grandmother was able to save her grandson with the medicine, she replied; “It doesn’t make any difference if the grandson is alive or dead because the story is about the journey.” She went on to say that it is the force of the grandmother’s will and her willingness to face danger, hardship, setbacks and the longest of odds to journey to and from the doctor to procure the prescription. Her fidelity, faithfulness, and stability to see it through to the end no matter the outcome.
In our world getting what we want, when we want it, without waiting or struggling to achieve any real meaning in our lives is because there is no journey to travel, no roads to wander, no paths to navigate.
Too often we miss the point of living. It’s not arriving that makes it worth doing. It’s how we get to the end and beyond.
If you have the time, read the “The Worn Path” below. Reflect on it and be sure you’re in it for the journey.
It was December—a bright frozen day in the early morning. Far out in the country there was an old Negro woman with her head tied red rag, coming along a path through the pinewoods. Her name was Phoenix Jackson. She was very old and small and she walked slowly in the dark pine shadows, moving a little from side to side in her steps, with the balanced heaviness and lightness of a pendulum in a grand-father clock. She carried a thin, small cane made from an umbrella, and with this she kept tapping the frozen earth in front of her. This made a grave and persistent noise in the still air, that seemed meditative like the chirping of a solitary little bird.
She wore a dark striped dress reaching down to her shoe tops, and an equally long apron of bleached sugar sacks, with a full pocket: all neat and tidy, but every time she took a step she might have fallen over her shoelaces, which dragged from her unlaced shoes. She looked straight ahead. Her eyes were blue with age. Her skin had a pattern all its own of numberless branching wrinkles and as though a whole little tree stood in the middle of her forehead, but a golden color ran underneath, and the two knobs of her cheeks were illumined by a yellow burning under the dark. Under the red rag her hair came down on her neck in the frailest of ringlets, still black, and with an odor like copper.
Now and then there was a quivering in the thicket. Old Phoenix said, “Out of my way, all you foxes, owls, beetles, jack rabbits, coons and wild animals!. . . Keep out from under these feet, little bob-whites…. Keep the big wild hogs out of my path. Don’t let none of those come running my direction. I got a long way.” Under her small black-freckled hand her cane, limber as a buggy whip, would switch at the brush as if to rouse up any hiding things.
On she went. The woods were deep and still. The sun made the pine needles almost too bright to look at, up where the wind rocked. The cones dropped as light as feathers. Down in the hollow was the mourning dove—it was not too late for him.
The path ran up a hill. “Seem like there is chains about my feet, time I get this far,” she said, in the voice of argument old people keep to use with themselves. “Something always take a hold of me on this hill— pleads I should stay.”
After she got to the top she turned and gave a full, severe look behind her where she had come. “Up through pines,” she said at length. “Now down through oaks.”
Her eyes opened their widest, and she started down gently. But before she got to the bottom of the hill a bush caught her dress.
Her fingers were busy and intent, but her skirts were full and long, so that before she could pull them free in one place they were caught in another. It was not possible to allow the dress to tear. “I in the thorny bush,” she said. “Thorns, you doing your appointed work. Never want to let folks pass, no sir. Old eyes thought you was a pretty little green bush.”
Finally, trembling all over, she stood free, and after a moment dared to stoop for her cane.
“Sun so high!” she cried, leaning back and looking, while the thick tears went over her eyes. “The time getting all gone here.”
At the foot of this hill was a place where a log was laid across the creek.
“Now comes the trial,” said Phoenix.
Putting her right foot out, she mounted the log and shut her eyes. Lifting her skirt, leveling her cane fiercely before her, like a festival figure in some parade, she began to march across. Then she opened her eyes and she was safe on the other side.
“I wasn’t as old as I thought,” she said.
But she sat down to rest. She spread her skirts on the bank around her and folded her hands over her knees. Up above her was a tree in a pearly cloud of mistletoe. She did not dare to close her eyes, and when a little boy brought her a plate with a slice of marble-cake on it she spoke to him. “That would be acceptable,” she said. But when she went to take it there was just her own hand in the air.
So she left that tree, and had to go through a barbed-wire fence. There she had to creep and crawl, spreading her knees and stretching her fingers like a baby trying to climb the steps. But she talked loudly to herself: she could not let her dress be torn now, so late in the day, and she could not pay for having her arm or her leg sawed off if she got caught fast where she was.
At last she was safe through the fence and risen up out in the clearing. Big dead trees, like black men with one arm, were standing in the purple stalks of the withered cotton field. There sat a buzzard.
“Who you watching?”
In the furrow she made her way along.
“Glad this not the season for bulls,” she said, looking sideways, “and the good Lord made his snakes to curl up and sleep in the winter. A pleasure I don’t see no two-headed snake coming around that tree, where it come once. It took a while to get by him, back in the summer.”
She passed through the old cotton and went into a field of dead corn. It whispered and shook and was taller than her head. “Through the maze now,” she said, for there was no path.
Then there was something tall, black, and skinny there, moving before her.
At first she took it for a man. It could have been a man dancing in the field. But she stood still and listened, and it did not make a sound. It was as silent as a ghost.
“Ghost,” she said sharply, “who be you the ghost of? For I have heard of nary death close by.”
But there was no answer–only the ragged dancing in the wind.
She shut her eyes, reached out her hand, and touched a sleeve. She found a coat and inside that an emptiness, cold as ice.
“You scarecrow,” she said. Her face lighted. “I ought to be shut up for good,” she said with laughter. “My senses is gone. I too old. I the oldest people I ever know. Dance, old scarecrow,” she said, “while I dancing with you.”
She kicked her foot over the furrow, and with mouth drawn down, shook her head once or twice in a little strutting way. Some husks blew down and whirled in streamers about her skirts.
Then she went on, parting her way from side to side with the cane, through the whispering field. At last she came to the end, to a wagon track where the silver grass blew between the red ruts. The quail were walking around like pullets, seeming all dainty and unseen.
“Walk pretty,” she said. “This the easy place. This the easy going.”
She followed the track, swaying through the quiet bare fields, through the little strings of trees silver in their dead leaves, past cabins silver from weather, with the doors and windows boarded shut, all like old women under a spell sitting there. “I walking in their sleep,” she said, nodding her head vigorously.
In a ravine she went where a spring was silently flowing through a hollow log. Old Phoenix bent and drank. “Sweet-gum makes the water sweet,” she said, and drank more. “Nobody know who made this well, for it was here when I was born.”
The track crossed a swampy part where the moss hung as white as lace from every limb. “Sleep on, alligators, and blow your bubbles.” Then the track went into the road.
Deep, deep the road went down between the high green-colored banks. Overhead the live-oaks met, and it was as dark as a cave.
A black dog with a lolling tongue came up out of the weeds by the ditch. She was meditating, and not ready, and when he came at her she only hit him a little with her cane. Over she went in the ditch, like a little puff of milkweed.
Down there, her senses drifted away. A dream visited her, and she reached her hand up, but nothing reached down and gave her a pull. So she lay there and presently went to talking. “Old woman,” she said to herself, “that black dog come up out of the weeds to stall you off, and now there he sitting on his fine tail, smiling at you.”
A white man finally came along and found her—a hunter, a young man, with his dog on a chain.
“Well, Granny!” he laughed. “What are you doing there?”
“Lying on my back like a June-bug waiting to be fumed over, mister,” she said, reaching up her hand.
He lifted her up, gave her a swing in the air, and set her down. “Anything broken, Granny?”
“No sir, them old dead weeds is springy enough,” said Phoenix, when she had got her breath. “I thank you for your trouble.”
“Where do you live, Granny?” he asked, while the two dogs were growling at each other.
“Away back yonder, sir, behind the ridge. You can’t even see it from here.”
“On your way home?”
“No sir, I going to town.”
“Why, that’s too far! That’s as far as I walk when I come out myself, and I get something for my trouble.” He patted the stuffed bag he carried, and there hung down a little closed claw. It was one of the bob-whites, with its beak hooked bitterly to show it was dead. “Now you go on home, Granny!”
“I bound to go to town, mister,” said Phoenix. “The time come around.”
He gave another laugh, filling the whole landscape. “I know you old colored people! Wouldn’t miss going to town to see Santa Claus!”
But something held old Phoenix very still. The deep lines in her face went into a fierce and different radiation. Without warning, she had seen with her own eyes a flashing nickel fall out of the man’s pocket onto the ground.
“How old are you, Granny?” he was saying.
“There is no telling, mister,” she said, “no telling.”
Then she gave a little cry and clapped her hands and said, “Git on away from here, dog! Look! Look at that dog!” She laughed as if in admiration. “He ain’t scared of nobody. He a big black dog.” She whispered, “Sic him!”
“Watch me get rid of that cur,” said the man. “Sic him, Pete! Sic him!”
Phoenix heard the dogs fighting, and heard the man running and throwing sticks. She even heard a gunshot. But she was slowly bending forward by that time, further and further forward, the lids stretched down over her eyes, as if she were doing this in her sleep. Her chin was lowered almost to her knees. The yellow palm of her hand came out from the fold of her apron. Her fingers slid down and along the ground under the piece of money with the grace and care they would have in lifting an egg from under a setting hen. Then she slowly straightened up, she stood erect, and the nickel was in her apron pocket. A bird flew by. Her lips moved. “God watching me the whole time. I come to stealing.”
The man came back, and his own dog panted about them. “Well, I scared him off that time,” he said, and then he laughed and lifted his gun and pointed it at Phoenix.
She stood straight and faced him.
“Doesn’t the gun scare you?” he said, still pointing it.
“No, sir, I seen plenty go off closer by, in my day, and for less than what I done,” she said, holding utterly still.
He smiled, and shouldered the gun. “Well, Granny,” he said, “you must be a hundred years old, and scared of nothing. I’d give you a dime if I had any money with me. But you take my advice and stay home, and nothing will happen to you.”
“I bound to go on my way, mister,” said Phoenix. She inclined her head in the red rag. Then they went in different directions, but she could hear the gun shooting again and again over the hill.
She walked on. The shadows hung from the oak trees to the road like curtains. Then she smelled wood-smoke, and smelled the river, and she saw a steeple and the cabins on their steep steps. Dozens of little black children whirled around her. There ahead was Natchez shining. Bells were ringing. She walked on.
In the paved city it was Christmas time. There were red and green electric lights strung and crisscrossed everywhere, and all turned on in the daytime. Old Phoenix would have been lost if she had not distrusted her eyesight and depended on her feet to know where to take her.
She paused quietly on the sidewalk where people were passing by. A lady came along in the crowd, carrying an armful of red-, green- and silver-wrapped presents; she gave off perfume like the red roses in hot summer, and Phoenix stopped her.
“Please, missy, will you lace up my shoe?” She held up her foot.
“What do you want, Grandma?”
“See my shoe,” said Phoenix. “Do all right for out in the country, but wouldn’t look right to go in a big building.” “Stand still then, Grandma,” said the lady. She put her packages down on the sidewalk beside her and laced and tied both shoes tightly.
“Can’t lace ’em with a cane,” said Phoenix. “Thank you, missy. I doesn’t mind asking a nice lady to tie up my shoe, when I gets out on the street.”
Moving slowly and from side to side, she went into the big building, and into a tower of steps, where she walked up and around and around until her feet knew to stop.
She entered a door, and there she saw nailed up on the wall the document that had been stamped with the gold seal and framed in the gold frame, which matched the dream that was hung up in her head.
“Here I be,” she said. There was a fixed and ceremonial stiffness over her body.
“A charity case, I suppose,” said an attendant who sat at the desk before her.
But Phoenix only looked above her head. There was sweat on her face, the wrinkles in her skin shone like a bright net.
“Speak up, Grandma,” the woman said. “What’s your name? We must have your history, you know. Have you been here before? What seems to be the trouble with you?”
Old Phoenix only gave a twitch to her face as if a fly were bothering her.
“Are you deaf?” cried the attendant.
But then the nurse came in.
“Oh, that’s just old Aunt Phoenix,” she said. “She doesn’t come for herself—she has a little grandson. She makes these trips just as regular as clockwork. She lives away back off the Old Natchez Trace.” She bent down. “Well, Aunt Phoenix, why don’t you just take a seat? We won’t keep you standing after your long trip.” She pointed.
The old woman sat down, bolt upright in the chair.
“Now, how is the boy?” asked the nurse.
Old Phoenix did not speak.
“I said, how is the boy?”
But Phoenix only waited and stared straight ahead, her face very solemn and withdrawn into rigidity.
“Is his throat any better?” asked the nurse. “Aunt Phoenix, don’t you hear me? Is your grandson’s throat any better since the last time you came for the medicine?”
With her hands on her knees, the old woman waited, silent, erect and motionless, just as if she were in armor.
“You mustn’t take up our time this way, Aunt Phoenix,” the nurse said. “Tell us quickly about your grandson, and get it over. He isn’t dead, is he?’
At last there came a flicker and then a flame of comprehension across her face, and she spoke.
“My grandson. It was my memory had left me. There I sat and forgot why I made my long trip.”
“Forgot?” The nurse frowned. “After you came so far?”
Then Phoenix was like an old woman begging a dignified forgiveness for waking up frightened in the night. “I never did go to school, I was too old at the Surrender,” she said in a soft voice. “I’m an old woman without an education. It was my memory fail me. My little grandson, he is just the same, and I forgot it in the coming.”
“Throat never heals, does it?” said the nurse, speaking in a loud, sure voice to old Phoenix. By now she had a card with something written on it, a little list. “Yes. Swallowed lye. When was it?—January—two, three years ago—”
Phoenix spoke unasked now. “No, missy, he not dead, he just the same. Every little while his throat begin to close up again, and he not able to swallow. He not get his breath. He not able to help himself. So the time come around, and I go on another trip for the soothing medicine.”
“All right. The doctor said as long as you came to get it, you could have it,” said the nurse. “But it’s an obstinate case.”
“My little grandson, he sit up there in the house all wrapped up, waiting by himself,” Phoenix went on. “We is the only two left in the world. He suffer and it don’t seem to put him back at all. He got a sweet look. He going to last. He wear a little patch quilt and peep out holding his mouth open like a little bird. I remembers so plain now. I not going to forget him again, no, the whole enduring time. I could tell him from all the others in creation.”
“All right.” The nurse was trying to hush her now. She brought her a bottle of medicine. “Charity,” she said, making a check mark in a book.
Old Phoenix held the bottle close to her eyes, and then carefully put it into her pocket.
“I thank you,” she said.
“It’s Christmas time, Grandma,” said the attendant. “Could I give you a few pennies out of my purse?”
“Five pennies is a nickel,” said Phoenix stiffly.
“Here’s a nickel,” said the attendant.
Phoenix rose carefully and held out her hand. She received the nickel and then fished the other nickel out of her pocket and laid it beside the new one. She stared at her palm closely, with her head on one side.
Then she gave a tap with her cane on the floor.
“This is what come to me to do,” she said. “I going to the store and buy my child a little windmill they sells, made out of paper. He going to find it hard to believe there such a thing in the world. I’ll march myself back where he waiting, holding it straight up in this hand.”
She lifted her free hand, gave a little nod, turned around, and walked out of the doctor’s office. Then her slow step began on the stairs, going down.
Rest and Suffering –
Yesterday afternoon, on my way back from an out-of-town meeting, I passed a delivery truck. Its hood was up, flashers on, obviously broke down and not going anywhere. What caught my attention was the driver. He was laying down in a shady spot, one arm for a pillow and the other holding a cellphone and talking. He wasn’t nervously pacing, angrily kicking tires, yelling into the phone. If he could’ve fixed the truck I am sure he would have. If there was a way to deliver his goods he would’ve completed his goals for the day. Instead, he was resting because there wasn’t anything else to do but wait.
I struggle following this man’s example. I like rhythm, order, control. I don’t like surprises, detours, or delays. There is certainly a part of that which comes from having a Severe Anxiety Disorder. Mapping out the day so it can be more easily managed is part of my therapy. However, I also believe it’s very human to want control, to get things done in a timely manner, to feel like our lives are not always a random gathering of happenstance.
Wisdom teaches us that the distance between acceptance of what happens every moment and our expectation of what should happen every moment is where suffering is found. Knowing how to rest in the unplanned, perhaps even unwanted, experiences of life is one of the toughest and most valuable lessons we can learn.
Yesterday evening I spoke to a group of men about going deeper, past the surface and digging down to find our true selves. Anger, for most men, is our default reaction, emotion, the feeling we express most often. Part of this comes from a culture which teaches us that we are to; “cowboy up!”, “man up!”, and “shake it off!” when it comes to pain, loss, fear, rejection. It’s not manly to cry, pour out hearts out, lean on another, admit weakness and hurt. So, eventually, all the angst builds up and we explode in anger and rage. We yell, throw things, hurt ourselves and others. “The problem,’ I said, ‘is that we’ve buried all the emotion which we’ve been taught not to feel. Layer upon layer of unexpressed feelings are buried. Until we dig down, feel it, come face to face with it and figure out what to do with it we’ll be ticking time bombs waiting for the next frustration, anxiety inducing event to go off.‘”
Wisdom tells us, however, that this isn’t just a male problem. We all struggle to go deeper, past the surface to find out what’s below. Our past haunts us, memories of pain and rejection strangle us from within. We struggle to feel and express our true selves because we’ve lost touch with who and what we are down deep, at our core.
“Argh! She gets on my nerves so much! Why can’t she just stop being so mean? I don’t deserve the way she treats me.“… This was part of an emotionally loaded conversation I had with a friend this week. Her relationship with a co-worker could be best described as strained and she’s at her wits end.
After the waterfall of words slowed to a trickle and my friend caught her breath we talked more about what was happening and why. She began to explain that she knew there was a lot of pressure on her co-worker outside of work, family responsibilities which might be taking their toll. “That still doesn’t mean she has to take it all out on me!” We agreed on this point but I replied; “Perhaps, the more aware you are of her pain the better able you’ll be to listen with empathy and grace.”
Working, living with, being around cantankerous people can be emotionally and spiritually draining. A willingness to open our hearts to them and their struggles may be the way to helping and restoring balance for both of us.
One of the most difficult parts of our journey is coming to grips with the damage inflicted upon our lives and the lives of others by our own ego. The persistent pursuit of what we want, what we desire, what we demand lays waste to even the noblest of intentions.
Self awareness can be a terrible discipline. It forces us to admit, confess, come to grips and try to tame our worst habits, fantasies and demons. Seeing who we are, what we’re capable of and the lengths we’ll go to try and re-make others and the world in our own image is frightening, humiliating and humbling. However, only when we acknowledge the monster within can it be conquered, tamed and transformed.
Today has been a gloomy day. The gray clouds have hung low, the sun hidden from view and I’ve been tired since I got out of bed this morning. Days like this are long and it’s difficult to be in a positive frame of mind.
For some folks even when there’s not a cloud in the sky and the sun, like a Phoenix, rises high above the earth casting light on all it surveys their view is still obscured by the darkness of their mind. Depression, anxiety and other mental health issues keep them in a perpetual state of unease and uncertainty. It’s hard for them to become motivated to do anything for the darkness drains them, keeps them from seeing the use, the purpose, the reason for simply living.
Oftentimes these folks are the ones you’d least suspect are battling demons of darkness. They seem okay, well adjusted, walk amongst us without a sign that reads; “help“, or a dark cloud hanging over their heads but make no mistake they are present, trying to hang on one more day, searching for the courage to hope, looking for a light in the darkness.
I haven’t seen the sun all day. I know it’s there but either its hiding behind the clouds or they are hiding it. I’m not sure if this is the reason but its been a hard day to accomplish anything. Overcast days have always drained me. They’re just so … “blah.”
I was talking with someone on Wednesday about how I was doing, the way life was treating me and I told her it was; “going okay.” We conversed about those times I didn’t have the energy to do much and how these days seemed to engender within me a sense of loss and shame for wasting my life. She told me; “some days you must give yourself permission to just be, not accomplishing, or getting through a task list, just being and letting that be enough.” “Easier said than done,’ I said, ‘for someone who struggles with severe anxiety.” “Maybe,’ she replied, ‘but that doesn’t mean you don’t try.” Good words.
It almost seems like an oxymoron to try at not trying, be at simply being, allowing a moment to exist without making it into something more. Perhaps a cloudy, rainy day wasn’t what I wanted but exactly what I needed.
Traditions, superstitions, are strange. Last night my wife boldly declared; “I’m not washing clothes tomorrow nor doing other house work because if I do it on the first day of the year, I’ll be doing it all year!” Being a fan of logic I thought; “Aren’t we going to be washing clothes and cleaning the house no matter what?” but I digressed and simply said; “Okie dokie.”
No matter your traditions, superstitions, predictions, resolutions, each of us are hoping for a good 2016. I do wish we had power over what’s going to happen but the truth is much of what will impact our lives is out of our control. Our real choice is what we’ll do when we encounter the good and the bad, the light and the dark, the positive and the negative when it crosses our path.
Yesterday I began spreading the gravel that was featured in Wednesday’s post. It was much tougher than I had planned. I was hoping to use a wide, blunt nosed shovel and move big amounts at one time. However, the size of the gravel prohibited this and required a shovel with a pointed end and a willingness to find the right angle through twisting, turning and force to get enough gravel to move. After several hours I had most of it moved but was sore and frustrated at the effort and inefficiency at which my progress had taken.
As I nursed aching muscles today I thought about the task of digging up the hard places of our spirits and hearts. It’s never easy and requires a lot of twists, turns and finding the right angle before progress is made. It too can seem like not much to show for the amount of effort but in the end wisdom assures is it’s worth the struggle.
I raked the yard yesterday although it’s not very evident this morning. There’s a large oak tree which sits near our house. It’s beautiful in the summer but in the fall, when the leaves begin to drop, the yard becomes covered in a blanket of brown. I’d estimate the tree is two-thirds empty which means more mess to clean up in the near future. Yesterday I spent almost 3 hours raking, trying to make the yard look nice but more leaves were falling even as I removed their comrades. Today I’m having a hard time seeing the value in my work.
Life can be discouraging when you try hard and yet not much changes. When battles we’re fighting, difficulties we’re attempting to overcome, diseases and habits we’re trying to defeat, bringing order to our lives when chaos covers them in a blanket of mess. requires a lot of energy with little to show for it.
This doesn’t mean we quit trying it means we recognize life is hard work. We do our best with our best and hope one day we’ll be able to see the difference.